Ambiguous Loss

About Grief

“Ambiguous loss” is a concept developed by Prof. Pauline Boss of the University of Minnesota. Bereavement clearly refers to the loss of a person, but there are losses which are not clear.


For example, when a person is missing and the body is not found, there is no certainty if the person is deceased, leading the family unable to sort out their feelings toward that person. Then ambiguity of the loss short circuits their mourning and the grieving, often prolonging these responses, affecting their family relationships.


Therefore Prof. Boss stresses that it is necessary to differentiate between “ambiguous loss”  and “bereavement”, and to provide a separate type of support. It is not recommended to call family members experiencing ambiguous loss as “the bereaved.”


Prof. Boss’s “ambiguous loss” theory describes a state of loss and not see it as a disease to be treated. We name the situation as “ambiguous loss” and assume that the cause of not being able to find closure lies not in the person, but in the ambiguity of the situation.


Additionally, in ambiguous loss, family relationships may develop problems. Prof. Boss emphasizes the need to increase family resilience based on a family therapy perspective.



For more information on ambiguous loss theory and interventions, please refer to the sister version of this website, the JDGS Project, Ambiguous Loss-Information Website.


Ambiguous Loss-Information Website